NAIROBI, KENYA – It’s 9 p.m. on a Saturday, and from the entrance of the Pango F3 club, a 6-inch glass heel pierces the air. Stepping into the strip club reveals the heel’s owner: an agile exotic dancer, garbed in a red G-string bikini and gyrating seductively on a golden pole, entertaining the mesmerized clientele.
”[I’m] just here to have fun,” says Bhavesh, a regular at Pango F3, who declined to give his full name to avoid the social stigma attached to patronizing strip clubs. ”I want to meet new people for a fun time. My heart was broken. Now I just want to have fun.”
A businessman from India who now lives in Nairobi, Bhavesh says that he discovered Pango F3 on the Internet.
The music steadily escalates to a crescendo at 11:30 p.m., as the club fills and a group of 15 Australian tourists streams in. The disc jockey plays a string of international hits, the club floor lights dim, strobe lights pulsate and the spotlight focuses on Norah. Norah, an exotic dancer, climbs the golden pole and whips her long weave around as she slides down it. She lands on the table and gyrates upside down, balancing on her head.
The patrons go wild and stand in line to tip her with 1,000-shilling bills, $12 USD, in her G-string. The DJ fires up the music, and the drinks flow freely. The pole is never vacant. Every dancer dances to five songs.
At the back of the club, a woman wearing a black blouse, blue form-fitting jeans and flat shoes supervises the club. Sabrina, the supervisor and trainer of Pango F3’s team of 10 exotic dancers, watches attentively, periodically speaking to the dancers. Sabrina, who usually tells people she works in business, says she and the other dancers declined to give their full names because of the stigma attached to stripping in Kenya.
Sabrina used to be a Pango F3 dancer herself before she was promoted. She says she started out as a traditional dancer, but then became an exotic dancer because it felt more natural.
”I enjoy dancing, and whenever I would hear music, I would just want to take my clothes off,” she says. “And that is how I [began].”
She says the dancers work six nights a week, with an aerobics session every evening from 4 p.m. to 5 p.m. and dance routine rehearsals from 5 p.m. to 6 p.m. No criterion is required to be an exotic dancer except passion, Sabrina says.
”Your body speaks for you,” she says.
But dancers are not allowed to be intoxicated. Sabrina points out a new stripper who has trouble dancing.
”She’s new,” Sabrina says. “We liked her because she had a light complexion. She can’t dance [because] she’s high [intoxicated].”
Sabrina says she doesn’t condone drinking on the job.
”If you enjoy what you are doing, then you should be able to do it sober,” Sabrina says. ”I am giving her ’til next week. If she doesn’t change, then we’ll have to let her go.”
Unheard of just a